Episode CCLXXXIV: Reductio »« How to tell the difference

Hitch is not in heaven

The great ferocious talent of Christopher Hitchens is gone — he died last night of complications from esophageal cancer. We knew him well; that is, he was one of those people who opened himself up so thoroughly, who expressed himself so excellently, who had a personality so strong, that millions of us can hold him in our mind’s eye. I can see him now — there’s a glass in his hand, his eyes are calm and steady, and he’s speaking in measured tones and with flawless English sentences with passion and reason perfectly intertwined. Even if I didn’t agree with him, I’d be standing awed and respectful before his clarity and elegance.

But I do not say farewell to Hitch. I do not say “rest in peace”. I definitely do not say that he has gone to a better place. I actually find myself already bracing myself for the next sign of deep disrespect that is destined to appear soon: the hackneyed political cartoon that draws him standing at the pearly gates.

Hitch is dead. We are a diminished people for the loss. There can be and should be no consolation, no soft words that encourage an illusion of heavenly rescue, no balm of lies. We should feel as we do with every death, that a part of us has been ripped from our hearts, and suffer pain and grief — and we are reminded that this is the fate we all face, that someday we too will die, and that we are all “living dyingly”, as Hitch put it so well.

As atheists, I think none of us can find solace in the cliches or numbness in the delusion of an afterlife. Instead, embrace the fierce strong emotions of anger and sorrow, feel the pain, rage against the darkness, fight back against our mortal enemy Death, and live exuberantly while we can. Confront mortality clear-eyed and pugnacious, uncompromising and aggressive.

It’s what Hitch would have wanted of us.

It’s how Hitch lived.

Comments

  1. says

    We could have had a pool to bet which fundy’d shoot his mouth off first, but Rick Warren seems to have had a ‘dumb mot’ ready to roll. Sleaze from Warren is no surprise. His comment “He knows the truth now” is laughable. Hitch knew that particular truth a long time ago.

    Hitch made me laugh countless times with his delicious, ruthless verbal sword-play. My world is a lot brighter, in general, because he lived in it. Bye Hitch!

  2. Jessie Colt says

    No Matter what anyone thought of him. Whether they agreed, or disagreed, with his views and opinions, his will be a voice that will be missed by all.

  3. melosaul says

    Hitch was and is a role model for any critical person. He is not in heaven but will remain in the mind and heart of countless admirers. The average IQ of all earthlings fell significantly last night.

    I will miss you, Mr. Hitchens!

  4. Dick the Damned says

    Hitch is no more, sadly, & yet he lives on, in his writings, & in the memories of all those his intellect has touched.

  5. eric says

    I find solace in the fact that he left us with several good books. Also, though I didn’t agree with every position he advocated, I find solace in the thought that his vocal and outspoken advocacy left the world a better place than it was before he was in it.

  6. says

    As I said in the last thread and mah blogs… He will be dearly missed.

    God Is Not Great is one of the reasons I became an atheist and ultimately a skeptic (along with anything The Lord of Pie, Sagan). Hitch inspired me as a writer and dissecter of opposition. I want to have the confidence that man had everytime he spoke.

  7. Active Margin says

    It was Hitchens who provided the final push toward accepting and owning my atheism. If there was a specific moment, it was while driving through California to visit family while listening to the God is not Great audio book.

    His words and his eloquence were inspiring, liberating and uplifting. As you said, a part of me has been ripped from my heart. And this for a man I never had the pleasure of meeting, although I considered him a good friend.

    You will be sorely missed, Hitch.

  8. Michael says

    Damn.

    I think a more appropriate political cartoon would be a long line of all the promised afterlives desperately vying for his approval, and him telling them all to get lost.

  9. helioprogenus says

    I can’t agree more PZ. The moment I heard, as a tribute to Hitch, I’ve opened my bottle of Johnny Walker Black and paid due respects to this giant of a man. You’re lucky to have known him and considered him a friend. I’m just glad to have shared this planet with a wit as sharp as his, and have access to his books that will continue to challenge and expand my thinking for a long time to come. Drink up friends (unless you don’t drink alcohol, in which case we’ll drink extra for you).

  10. cowcakes says

    On hearing the news this afternoon I tweeted “With the passing of Hitch the world is now considerably less sane.”

    I had an equally accurate reply “Because he lived the world is more sane.”

  11. raven says

    Hitchens being dead could be dangerous.

    For the xian ghouls anyway. I’m sure a few will be trampled in the rush to devour Hitchen’s body and death.

    I’m also sure a lot of xians will be celebraing. It’s OK. I was pretty happy when JD Kennedy and Jerry Falwell went back to hell.

    Normally it seems tacky to speak ill of the dead. But there are exceptions. Besides, I has nothing good to say about either one when they were alive so why should them being dead change anything?

    So, go ahead and celebrate xians. Guess what? You will follow Christopher Hitchens into death and it will happen sooner then you want.

  12. says

    Why be angry?

    He lived an unimaginably fantastic life. Sure, it got cut a bit short and the best days were not his final ones. Still, he won the greatest of possible lotteries, and he won it in style. Worked damned hard to win it, too.

    Today’s an excuse to celebrate the victory that was his life, and to party in his style — with no regrets.

    Cheers!

    b&

  13. Alverant says

    That is sad news. I also fear the remarks “compassionate” religious people will make. I’m sure you’re right about the political cartoons. Steve Jobs was a Buddhist and when he died, all but one showed him in christian heaven. Even the one that did acknowledge his religion put him before St.Peter before reincarnating him as a 3rd world working making iPads. He will be missed. It is my hope the next Hitchens will arrive and continue the fight.

  14. reasonisbeauty says

    …the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world “This Was A Man!”

    Love him or hate him, there was never any ambiguity about Hitchens. But the world is a better place that he lived. Farewell.

  15. dianne says

    It sucks that he’s dead. I wasn’t always thrilled with Hitchen’s opinions, but he was insightful and witty and the world is worse off without him. Fuck cancer and its fucking inability to stop expanding and destroying everything around it. What a Republican disease!

  16. dianne says

    It is my hope the next Hitchens will arrive and continue the fight.

    The next Hitchens will arrive. But will she be taken seriously?

  17. rogerfirth says

    Hitchens has attained a level of immortality few of us ever will.

    Not the “immortality” of various myths. Rather, immortality in the form of his books and articles, recordings of his interviews, lectures, and debates, and people’s memories of personal encounters with him. And sadly, even those will eventually pass to nothingness unless humankind manages interstellar travel and carries along those recordings before our sun goes nova.

    He made his dent in the universe. The world is a better place because of him. I has a sad because of his passing.

    Hitchens the human is no more. But Hitchens will still be around for a long, long time.

  18. says

    He’s just pining for the fjords. I say that because it seems that in the West, at least, few have problems recognizing that for animals death is the end, but somehow for humans it’s “different,” despite all evidence being that it’s the same.

    Well, RIP Hitch, which always seems a good sentiment to me, even though it’s inevitable.

    Glen Davidson

  19. says

    To add insult to injury I couldn’t help being annoyed at the way BBC Radio 2 were reporting his death this morning.

    “On being diagnosed with Cancer Christopher claimed he had not changed his mind about God but that he liked surprises”.

    They must’ve mined hundreds of his quotes to get the one that was the closest possible to a death-bed conversion… Shameful.

  20. Alex says

    You, Hitch, Dillahunty, et al — you’re almost like distant family to me. I’m exceptionally sad about Hitch’s passing, but I’m glad we still have the rest of the New Atheist crowd, which is sure to only grow as time progresses and people mature out of these destructive, babyish beliefs.

    As much as I thank Hitch for his contributions, I also thank you, Peez, for still being here with us.

  21. jimmauch says

    Hitch is gone! He was one of those handful of people whose output we can say has become a substantial influance on all of us. I am sure it would have been his wish that rather than pray for him he would have wanted us to think for him. Of coarse we will never be his equal.

  22. markw says

    I’ll raise a glass for him tonight.

    The vultures will doubtless claim a deathbed conversion, and there’s the aforementioned twitter shitstorm already kicked off.

    I’m pleased to see someone posting the Cyanide & Happiness link.

    Finally, and with tongue firmly in cheek, I’d like to quote this little vignette I saw on twitter:

    “God Is Not Great”
    Proof couldn’t be neater:
    He took away Hitch,
    And left us with Peter.

  23. Becca Stareyes says

    I might give some people the benefit of the doubt for ‘rest in peace’ — unconsciousness and dreamless sleep is about the closest we, the living, can experience to non-existence, and non-existence also means that Hitch is free from the pain and suffering that his nasty bout of cancer was causing. Though rest does imply waking… must think about this more.

    But it mostly depends on how charitable I am towards the speaker/writer, though. The deceased might not be around to object to your eulogies, but their friends/family (and, in the case of a famous person, fans) are.

  24. radpumpkin says

    *raises glass of scotch*

    Well, Hitch, you’ll be missed. It seems that no matter what you’ll do, you’ll piss somebody off in life. And the people you do piss off will forget any semblance of good you have done them as soon as you’re cold. But you’re not dead to them, oh no. The shit you’ve supposedly done to them will live on for ages. That’ll be your legacy, Hitch, and I can already smell the manure of a million “Hitch is burning in Hell” posts. But there are other people, some of us came to appreciate your wit, and your style. So I guess what I’m trying to say is if some cretins can keep you alive eternally to berate your pissing-them-off, the rest of us can keep your memory alive for more pleasant reasons.

    You’ll be missed, Hitch. You’re not off in some better place, nor one of torment. You’re gone, and the world is a little poorer now. But then again, you’re not really gone. You left a legacy, you left us your words and your thoughts. We can still treasure those, and learn from them. You’ll only be truly dead when nobody remembers you for the person you were.

    Oh yeah, fuck cancer.

  25. yubal says

    That is so sad he had to go so early, but on the other hand, it was also to some degree his own fault.

    Hitch will live on in his books, essays and epic rants against the c r a a a a a z Y Y.

    I hope his family will get over it soon.

  26. says

    The pious said it best, and predictably as contradictory as they can:

    .

    “Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep, From which none ever wake to weep; A calm and undisturbed repose, Uninjured by the last of foes.”

    .

    “Hitch.” Such a perfect nickname. He pulled us this far. He left us plenty of tension to carry us forward. He will be missed greatly, unlike the gods.

  27. says

    I’ve braved the snow & icy sidewalks of Morris to walk down to the liquor store. Goal: a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label. It’s too early to start drinking, but tonight, I’ll be raising a glass a few times…to Hitch.

  28. philtaprogge says

    If I may be so bold, in one point I think you’re wrong, PZ.

    There is one consolation: The firm knowledge that his thoughts and more importantly his brilliant words will stay with us, just like Carl Sagen’s do up until the present day.

    We are diminished by his loss, but only after having been enriched by his presence – and that, nothing can take away.

  29. garyhill says

    Dear Christopher

    Thanks for all the video clips, the articles, the books, the hitchslaps….thanks for being you – not someone I always agreed with – but someone who always valued reason and basic morality and enjoyment of life and placed these above all the sanctimonious untruths spouted from those who were not fit to fill your wineglass..

    Cheers, you’ve given me so much.

  30. eddyline says

    No scotch on hand right now. Had a bottle of MacAllan’s but it’s elsewhere.

    Harlan Ellison wrote a great essay, as the introduction to his book “Angry Candy”, titled “The Wind Took Your Answer Away.” The eulogy for his friend Emily at the start of it describes what PZ says exactly.

    There are no soft words for death, only a sense of loss and anger at the inevitable. His words and works live on; for a while, we do too.

    My condolences to his friends and family, and all who miss him.

  31. Alex says

    I have some of the old Amber Restorative at home, myself. I think I’ll crack it open in his honor.

  32. Happiestsadist says

    I haven’t always agreed with Hitch, but he did make a hell of a great difference. His words touched so many, and got so many thinking about what is true and why that matters. We were fortunate to have the time we did to share this planet with him. Now is the time to grieve this loss, and then to go back to keeping up the good fight.

  33. feurio says

    “We had a memorial services for Isaac [Asimov] a few years back, and at one point I said, ”Isaac is up in Heaven now.” It was the funniest thing I could have said to a group of Humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, ”Kurt is up in Heaven now.” That’s my favorite joke.”
    –Kurt Vonnegut

  34. Matt Penfold says

    I heard the news on the Today program when I woke at 6am. It was not the best way to start the day.

  35. holkelly says

    Christopher Hitchens opened my eyes to what was to become a revelation in my life. I raise a glass and honor him in the way he wanted.

    “Get drunk, have sex, and brag to all your friends about it.”

  36. Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling of Lancre says

    I am grateful to the ‘New Atheist’ movement for making me discover his work. It was a privilege to read.
    I will certainly raise a glass of whisky tonight and I will always take care to brew a decent cup of tea.
    And I will always have him in mind as an example of dignity and true morality in life and death.

  37. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Now that Hitch is dead, you can count on the credulous to scurry from their hiding places to bat at the corpse. I ams sure they will then scurry back to the shadows, afraid that they may be lacerated by his eloquent silence as they were so often by his razor sharp tongue and wit.

    Bye, Hitch. You live on in our memories.

  38. doctormelkor says

    “…we take comfort in knowing there is no God. That you are not enslaved in a Heaven, made to kiss God’s ass forever. What you have is better than Paradise. You have blessed oblivion. I miss you every day.”

  39. Gregory Greenwood says

    Hitchens is gone, but his legacy lives on in his books, articles, interviews and his example. I didn’t agree with all of his political opinions, but there is one thing I admired about him more than anything else – his uncompromising attitude. No weasel words for Hitchens, no soft-serving accommodationism calculated to avoid giving offense. He took the claims of religion seriously, and demolished them like the toxic drivel they are, without apology.

    He didn’t give free passes to nonsense merely because speaking his mind would give some pearl-clutchers the vapours. He wouldn’t accept disengenuous excuses that seek to minimise the role of religion in human suffering. Appeals to fuzzy, feel-good thinking in relation to the supposed ‘benefits’ of faith left him unmoved. If there is any such thing as the quintessence of what some people call ‘new atheism’, then that is it.

    Hitchens is gone, and that means that it falls to the rest of us to take up his mantle, and continue to fight to make sure that the voice of science and reason is still heard in what Sagan famously called the Demon Haunted World.

  40. daveau says

    It’s too early to start drinking…

    Sure it is. Remember, it’s for Hitch, and what he would have wanted.

  41. anubisprime says

    So Twiitter pulls the top trend…either by algorithm or design(sic) and the likely culprits might be brain dead xian clowns that threaten violence because it makes them all frowny!

    Kind of proves that Hitch was spot on …’God is not great’…indeed…it also might just prove that his sycophants are a lot worse!

    But no surprises there!

    WASSAIL HITCH…

  42. pj says

    Regardless of knowing fully well that it was only a matter of time, I am still shaken by Hitchens’ death. Good bye, Hitch. You were an influence.

    I think I’ll go get drunk now.

  43. zaphodbeeblebrox says

    Apparently he did have a conversion at the end… “I was really more of a bourbon man.”

    A great voice has been quieted. He will be sorely missed.

  44. Zinc Avenger says

    Take note, theists. Self-delusion is not necessary to face death with dignity. Comforting lies demean the teller, particularly if you’re lying to yourself.

  45. janine says

    Marcus Ranum says:
    16 December 2011 at 8:41 am

    We could have had a pool to bet which fundy’d shoot his mouth off first, but Rick Warren seems to have had a ‘dumb mot’ ready to roll. Sleaze from Warren is no surprise. His comment “He knows the truth now” is laughable. Hitch knew that particular truth a long time ago.

    For over two thousand years, this is something that could be muttered by a sleeping christian about any non christian who is dead. It is not a statement, it is a reflex.

  46. raven says

    Christians threatening violence over “GodIsNotGreat” trend on …boards.ign.com/teh_vestibule/b5296/207552928/p1/?10You +1′d this publicly. Undo
    Christians threatening violence over “GodIsNotGreat” trend on Twitter. Date Posted: 12/16/2011 12:56:AM. This just prove that the majority of people in this …
    Get more results from the past 24 hours
    #GodisNotGreat Twitter Trend! Death Threats from CHRISTIANS on …

    ► 1:36► 1:36 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBP3DlMiAiA
    New7 hours ago – 2 min – Uploaded by GODISNOTGREAT0
    RIP CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS. This video contains DEATH THREATS posted by CHRISTIANS on Twitter in …

    What is going on with twitter?

    I googled #godisnotgreat and apparently some xians are threatening to kill users for some murky reason. This makes no sense.

    Apparently twitter has cancelled the hashtag or something.

  47. says

    An actual comment in the Daily Mail story on Hitchens made me laugh like a great stupid:

    No idea who he is but god rest his soul

    Hitchens was a giant amongst men. Glasses will be raised tonight. Lots of them.

  48. Sir Shplane, Grand Mixmaster, Knight of the Turntable says

    I’m just going to listen to all my sad music now.

  49. pedron says

    Hitchens’ cancer not intelligently designed.

    Experts said that after looking at cancer through a microscope for most of their lives they would have reassured the celebrated polemicist that it was almost certainly a result of random genetic mutations, but that if it was designed it was done so by a grade-A cretin.

    Marvellous piece from the ever-amusing Daily Mash.

  50. says

    Clear-eyed and pugnacious–I like that. One thing, though–as pugnacious as he got, he never fantasized about his opponents burning in hell. We need a Christofascist Rule to complement Godwin’s Law, to wit, whoever first fantasizes about his opponent’s after-death torments loses the argument.

    I never got to meet Hitch in life, and not for lack of trying–I went to a CFI conference in Washington largely because he was on the bill but he didn’t show up, and then he did come to my city but I heard about it only later. However, I’ve read “God is not Great” and have “Arguably” on the nightstand. He will go on influencing and inspiring us through his writing and interviews and through our memories.

    Thanks, Hitch! To you! [raises glass of Johnny Walker]

  51. ahangmanontyre says

    “The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.”
    - Christopher Hitchens –

    So long and thanks for provoking my thoughts

  52. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Damn it. I saw the post title and my stomach lurched. Not a surprise, but a most unwelcome shock nonetheless.

    One of the best afternoons of my life was spent sitting with Hitchens and about five other people from the Richard Dawkins foundation at the hotel bar at the AAI conference in Virginia. The man was without pretense and just as fun and candid (and extremely gracious) as you could want. We drank and smoked while he told tales for a couple of hours before his slotted appearance at the conference. Contrary to what you might think, he cut himself off after two glasses of scotch so as not to be soused at the podium.

    Goodbye Christopher Hitchens. I’ll raise a glass and have a very rare cigarette for you tonight.

  53. screechymonkey says

    PZ: “It’s too early to start drinking, ”

    As Hitch himself once said,

    “I don’t usually start this early,” he said, his glass already gratefully extended, “but holding yourself to a drinking schedule is always the first sign of alcoholism.”

  54. Loqi says

    I’ll be typing “hitchslap” into youtube once I get home from work. I don’t drink, so unfortunately it won’t be the most fitting tribute it could be, but my glass of milk will be joining all those Johnny Walker Blacks that will be raised tonight.

  55. Sastra says

    Damn. I hope the end was peaceful for him.

    He really lived when he lived. Hitchens will be sorely missed.

  56. allencdexter says

    “…we take comfort in knowing there is no God. That you are not enslaved in a Heaven, made to kiss God’s ass forever. What you have is better than Paradise. You have blessed oblivion. I miss you every day.”

    Please note for me the orgin of that quote. It’s excellent

  57. Michael Zeora says

    First, To the Close Friends and Family of our Late Comrade, I empathize with your loss; I hope the best to you and yours in this trying time of grief. It doesn’t matter if it was expected, it still stings like a venomous bite of a snake.

    To those who haven’t known him – myself in that group, but have only known him through his works and appearances. The loss of such a voice is disheartening. To put adjectives to what he was would only seem to box such a mind and voice within those confines of the words used to describe them. For to properly list out all the adjectives he met would well encompass a great deal of the OED, and even then I’m sure we’d miss at least three.

    I raise my glass, of course filled with the quintessential liquid of choice for this matter, Johnny Walker Black Label. And to you, Christopher Hitchens for all the good you have done, for all the people you’ve pissed off, for all the laughs, the insights, and now for the many who will miss you in your falling off of this mortal coil.

    And to follow as the third, forth, etc… sentiment – Fuck Cancer.

    On a more humorous note: I nominate PZ to the Horsemen’s Saddle that Hitchens has left behind.

  58. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    An Irish folk song for Hitch:

    Oh, banquet not in those shining bowers,
    Where Youth resorts, but come to me,
    For mine’s a garden of faded flowers,
    More fit for sorrow, for age, and thee.
    And there we shall have our feast of tears,
    And many a cup in silence pour;
    Our guests, the shades of former years,
    Our toasts, to lips that bloom no more.

    2. There, while the myrtle’s withering boughs
    Their lifeless leaves around us shed,
    We’ll brim the bowl to broken vows
    To friends long lost, the changed, the dead.
    Or, while some blighted laurel waves
    Its branches o’er the dreary spot,
    We’ll drink to those neglected graves
    Where valour sleeps, unnamed, forgot.

  59. The Sky is a Wheel says

    I was more saddened by this news than I thought I would be.

    In honour of the man I raised a glass of Lagavulin 16-year. It cost me £6 for the glass, but it seemed a fitting send-off for such a great man.

    I also watched some of his videos to remind myself of his eloquent fury. On debating a Christian on the radio, the host said that he did not consider Hitchens an enemy. Hitchens said “I’m very sorry to hear that… If you don’t consider me an enemy, you don’t know an enemy when you see or hear one.”

    Here’s the full thing (it’s near the end).

    You will be sadly missed, Christopher, but I think you knew how important you were.

  60. Happiestsadist says

    I am out of whisky, or so I thought. Rum, vodka, German schnapps, mead, rose liqueur and beer are in abundance, but no whisky.

    EXCEPT. I found the last of my whisky marmalade. I raise a toast of toast to you, Christopher Hitchens.

  61. paumanok says

    Actually, my first reaction was to say, “Hitch is up in Heaven now.” Not because I believe in any such nonsense. However, it has become my traditional response to the passing of a fellow atheist and is a nod to Kurt Vonnegut and Isaac Asimov. Vonnegut wrote that, at the American Humanist Association memorial service for Isaac Asimov, he said, “‘Isaac is up in Heaven now.’ That was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. It rolled them in the aisles. Mirth! Several minutes had to pass before something resembling solemnity could be restored.” He went on to say, “So when my own time comes to join the choir invisible or whatever, God forbid, I hope someone will say, ‘He’s up in Heaven now.’ Who really knows? I could have dreamed all this.” Therefore, when Kurt Vonnegut died, the title of my blog tribute was “Kurt is in Heaven now.” This “He’s up in Heaven now” has become my preemptive strike against the hackneyed clichés involving the delusion of an afterlife. Mirth? Not yet. But pass me that scotch…. Here’s to Hitch.

  62. interrobang says

    As always, PZ hits a home run here. Why is it, given that Christianity is nothing more than a series of rituals designed to prepare one for dying in the religiously-prescribed way, atheists write the best, most comforting, most humane eulogies? (I second the recommendation upthread for “The Wind Took Your Answer Away,” too.) I’ve been to a number of Christian funerals in the last several years (because people I know keep dying on me, fuck cancer indeed*), and in every one of them, I was struck by how fundamentally anti-human they are.

    Every normal impulse a person has is subverted: Don’t grieve; the person’s in Heaven. Be happy! Don’t be angry that the person you loved is no longer with you, be grateful that ze’s with Gawd now! Et cetera. What a brilliant schema for social control, to make people fight against (and feel guilty for) their natural emotions.

    __________
    * Right now, as you read this, both my mother and one of my best friends are going through chemotherapy, for breast cancer and uterine/very early pancreatic cancer respectively. (The oncologist told my friend she was lucky to get the uterine cancer, because without the surgery they had, they never would have found the pancreatic cancer — a completely different type, incidentally — in time. Even taken at face (non-supernatural) value, the world is a weird place.

  63. Dick the Damned says

    To all of you who’re gonna raise a glass of Johnny Walker Black Label, (or strong tipple of choice), please water it down. Not doing so might have caused Hitch’s cancer.

  64. Matt Penfold says

    Every normal impulse a person has is subverted: Don’t grieve; the person’s in Heaven. Be happy! Don’t be angry that the person you loved is no longer with you, be grateful that ze’s with Gawd now! Et cetera. What a brilliant schema for social control, to make people fight against (and feel guilty for) their natural emotions.

    The worst funeral I have ever been to was a Catholic one where the priest basically told us that the deceased has taken communion not long before he died, and had been given the last rights so matter how bad he had been in life if he did not get to heaven it would our fault for not praying hard enough.

  65. leighshryock says

    Well. I am not a scotch drinker, but I will check for some johnny walker.

    If not, some appleton estate rum will be quaffed in his honor.

  66. Matt Penfold says

    And I would just add to the fuck cancer sentiment. I have a neighbour who has just been diagnosed with brain and lung cancer. The prognosis is not good, and whilst he is getting radiotherapy and might be having chemo it seems more for the relief of symptoms than anything.

    And it is not just those with the disease who suffer. His wife is suffering terribly, not only knowing she is going to loose her husband years before she expected to, but also his brain cancer is causing him to behave in odd ways, such as waking her every hour during the night to get him breakfast.

  67. says

    I am reminded how “God is not Great” cleared some of the cobwebs from my thoughts and made it easier for me to get angry at Christianity. For that, I am incredibly grateful.

  68. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
    Push off, and sitting well in order smite
    The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
    To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
    Of all the western stars, until I die.
    It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
    It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
    And see the great Achilles, whom we knew
    Though much is taken, much abides; and though
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    -Alfred Lord Tennyson “Ulysses”

  69. Das Boese says

    Rest assured, any relief that proponents of irrationality and bigotry might feel now is ill-advised, since there is a tremendous public archive of Hitchens’ written and spoken word.

    You’re still wrong, Christopher Hitchens will continue to call you out for your bullshit and hitchslap you from beyond the grave, and we shall be the ones to deliver it for him.

  70. otrame says

    Thank you, Hitch.

    —–

    And to the two (so far) people who have made reference to the idea that his behavior caused his cancer, implying it was his own fault:

    FUCK YOU IN EVERY ORIFACE YOU HAVE. PORCUPINES ARE TOO GOOD FOR YOU. I’VE BEEN SAVING UP THIS DEAD RHINOCEROS FOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU.

  71. screechymonkey says

    Maybe as a counterpoint to the inevitable awful “Pearly Gates” editorial cartoons we’ll see, some atheist with artistic ability could do a decent one. I envision the Three Horsemen in a “missing man” formation….

  72. HaggisForBrains says

    Only Glenlivet 12yo in the house, I’m afraid, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have turned it down – so here’s to your memory. My deepest sympathy to his family and closest. Mrs Brains uses the same phrase as he did when explaining her stage 4 cancer – “there is no stage 5″.

    I find myself very moved by all the eloquent tributes. Can I simply second them all?

  73. leighshryock says

    I assure you, Hitchens was well aware of the health implications of his actions and pursued these actions knowingly.

    Admitting that he didn’t have the healthiest lifestyle is *not* a criticism of the man on my part. His life, his choices. He was still a great man, though I did not always agree with him, I respected him.

  74. janine says

    Please remember, while you are fucking cancer, fuck also the neo-conservative invasions that he supported.

  75. blbt5 says

    Hitch is gone only in the corporeal sense. Besides his written works, in hundreds of videos immortalized in the internet, Christopher’s wit, eloquence and courage continue the good fight against the tyranny of religion, and for the emancipated life.

  76. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    No Johnny Walker Black Labels at any of the shops near me so a different glass of scotch was raised instead.

    Yeah I was actually having a dram of Talisker at the very moment I read about his death.

    Don’t have to agree with everything he said to mourn his passing.

  77. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Tonight I will raise a glass of Three Floyds Dark Lord in his honor.

    I’m not going to derail, but I really want to at that.

  78. Aquaria says

    I should have bought stock in Johnny Walker Black, for all the people who would be buying it to toast Hitch.

    Instead, I’ll nip down to the liquor store this evening and pick some up.

  79. says

    His legacy will live on in his books, ideas, and the memories of those who were close to him.

    Also: my father died from cancer at 56. So yeah, fuck cancer!

  80. janine says

    Don’t have to agree with everything he said to mourn his passing.

    True. But I had to do something about the “don’t speak ill of the dead” vibe I am getting. And suggesting that people keep in mind what a mixed bag that Hitchins was.

    Call it a tempered admiration combined with a lack of respect on my part.

    I could not understand how he could willingly follow and defend the actions of dubya, Cheney and crew while condemning Clinton and Kissinger.

  81. pyrespirit says

    @94;

    Hitchins himself acknowledged his lifestyle was very likely a contributing factor in his illness, and to try to say it wasn’t directly goes against all the rationality he stood for.

    He stated no regrets for his life or lifestyle – what gives you the right to try to shout down people who acknowledge that?

    Hitchins was a great man; to try and deny the reality of his death out of some misguided deference is to do no good service to that most worthy life.

    He’ll be missed, most definitely, by so many people.

  82. Chiral says

    I’m sad that he’s gone, but happy he was here while he was. We are left better for his life. When I agreed with him it was like hearing the melody of my thoughts written into a symphony. When I disagreed, it made me think long and hard about why and work to wrap words around my reasons. His strength in living and dying was admirable and something I strive toward.

    If I could, I’d buy someone who could enjoy it a whiskey in his honor.

  83. Gregory says

    [E]mbrace the fierce strong emotions of anger and sorrow, feel the pain, rage against the darkness, fight back against our mortal enemy Death, and live exuberantly while we can.

    No.

    While I am saddened by Hitchens’ death, I am not angry. My feeling of loss is not pain, and I will not rage or call death an enemy. Death is a necessary part of life: the new cannot be brought into a world cluttered with the old. Our teacher and inspiration is gone; that means only that it is our turn to teach and inspire.

  84. cswella says

    Janine, I fully agree with your mixed bag sentiment, though I personally think this is not the right thread for it…

    Hitchens was a contrarian, I doubt any sense of generic reverence wouldn’t appeal to his nature.

    What better way to respect his life than to debate what his positions were on a number of topics.

    Bought a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label months ago in anticipation of this tragedy. Will be drinking tonight and tomorrow.

  85. cswella says

    That should read, “I doubt any sense of generic reverence WOULD appeal to his nature.”

    PS: My favorite instance of his life that I recall was getting the shit kicked out of him for expressing his distaste for a certain regime by writing “Fuck the SSNP” on a poster. Certainly a good example of the kind of rebellious person Hitchens was.

  86. johnfreethinker says

    I do not know where Christopher Hitchens has gone, or if he is anywhere but in a box. I do not know if there is a God, a soul, or a heaven or not. I do not have evidence to support or deny these things.

    However, I do know the Christians have no claim on Hitchens. There was no deathbed conversion for him.

    Despite what any of them say, Hitchens denied Christ and therefore would be condemned. Being a good chap is not what God requires, but believing and obeying his son Jesus Christ. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mk 14.28 That is condemned as in damned, burning in hell, etc.

    Christians cannot claim some afterlife backdoor to salvation; else why did Christ die? Neither can they speak of Hitchens “knowing the truth now”, without exposing their profound lack of compassion and consideration for his grieving friends and relatives. But some, like Rick Warren, go ahead anyway.

    This is the problem with faith. It takes pleasure insulting or destroying people for the sake of supposed gods, because it prefers deity to humanity.

  87. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Janine, I fully agree with your mixed bag sentiment, though I personally think this is not the right thread for it…

    Sure it is. What better tribute to Hitchen’s memory than rejection of sycophancy for the fucking sake of honest discourse?

    Hitchens was a brilliant orator and writer, a Marxist, a war-hawk, and a misogynist. He was all of those things. How does one discuss his life while ignoring this complexity?

  88. Brother Ogvorbis, OM . . . Really? says

    The only afterlife any of us have is the memories in the minds of those we have touched and the good or bad we have done in the world. Christopher Hitchens, you have touched many people, far more people than you know, and your good works, your writings, to be more specific, have given you as close to immortality as any sentient being could wish.

    Goodbye.

  89. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    As much of an asshole as Hitchens could be at times — especially IMO about feminist issues, but also what Janine’s saying about his neocon views — The Missionary Position alone made him a worthwhile contributor to the public sphere.

    I myself am not much of a drinker, so everyone else have an extra glass for me, please. And, regardless of what Dick the Wet Blanket says, don’t water it down.

    Dianne, #21: Brava.

    Oh, and yeah, fuck cancer. I lost a beloved aunt to it just last month.

  90. Agent Smith says

    Hitch was wrong about the Iraq war, definitely wrong about abortion, and occasionally went over the top on Islam. But with a mind that seismic, you had to expect a few faults. Christopher Hitchens was right about so much, and said it so well, that he’s going to be an inspiration of mine till the day I die.

    His passing reminded me of another eloquent contrarian, singer Warren Zevon, who faced his own looming mortality with merciless humor and a large middle finger raised at the approaching reaper. Both Zevon and Hitchens knew that there was no heaven’s door to knock on. Both of them had reason to feel aggrieved at how early their respective cancers struck (mid-50s for Zevon, early 60s for Hitchens), but they both defied their illnesses to carry on doing what they lived for, whether that was making music or writing articles.

    The superman of rhetoric is gone, but his phrase “What can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” will keep being the kryptonite against spouting theistic gargoyles for much, much longer. I’m amused to see the religious folks getting into a lather over the #GodIsNotGreat tag, as it indicates that some of them are having the uncomfortable prickling that God is indeed not great, and that the influence he deserves to have on their lives is precisely what he consists of: nothing!

    With one exception, there is absolutely nothing worthwhile in life that’s done on the knees. Hitchens might not have said that, but he lived it 100% from start to end.

  91. Louis says

    Goodbye Mr Hitchens. Read ya, never knew ya! I didn’t agree with everything you said, but then life would be awfully boring if we all agreed. And the last thing we would want is to be boring. ;-)

    I’ll raise a glass in your honour, but since I was going to raise a few anyway and you’ll never know about it….

    Louis

  92. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    With one exception, there is absolutely nothing worthwhile in life that’s done on the knees.

    You’re speaking of gardening of course

  93. carlie says

    NPR’s obit never mentioned the word “atheist.”

    You mean to say that Fox News did a better job on his obituary than NPR did? Wow.

  94. Azuma Hazuki says

    A fitting tribute to him is not directly to him, but to continue his work.

    Hitch knew the end was coming. Dennet and Dawkins aren’t exactly spring chickens either (and when we lose Dennet, we will truly have lost the most powerful of the four IMO).

    What does this mean? Simply this: the next generation is passing into prominence, as the last eclipses. Who are the new horsemen? Richard Carrier, and Hector Avalos among others. Who do we still have left aside from the other three? Robert Price, for one, and though I disagree with him that there never was a historical Jesus he gets less credit than he ought to.

    And what sets the new, as-yet-to-be-inaugurated horsemen apart from the first generation? Primarily, that they attack with reason, facts, and research where the first set was largely rhetoric (Dawkins, Hitchens) and admittedly very good philosophy (Dennet, the reason I consider him the most effective one).

    Atheism is life-affirming. In the seemingly blackest, deepest darkness, the stark understanding that entropy is king and that this is it, a kind of Nietzschean and Camus-ian strength blooms. It’s a sort of Zen, or an apophatic epistemology. When you have stared Hell in the face and Hell blinked first, you aren’t truly existentially afraid of anything any longer.

    So, let’s pay Hitch a proper atheist tribute: let’s keep living, and loving, and learning. And someday, maybe within the next few years, we will finally bring the Abrahamic religions to their knees (and incidentally free Jesus from all the shit that’s accumulated around him…).

    PS: definitely nominating PZ for the now-vacant saddle. We could use another scientist at the helm!

  95. AussieMike says

    Vale Hitch.

    One of the brightest stars in the galaxy burned out today.

    No more living to fight another day.

    The way you faced your life Christopher, while staring at that thing which would kill you, has made us stronger. We will pick up your sword and continue the fight.

    Raise your glass everyone,

    To Christopher Hitchens, there can be no substitute.

  96. chigau (違う) says

    We don’t need to limit it to only 4 horsemenriders.
    Let’s go for a cavalry!
    (cicely can drive the truck)

  97. quoderatdemonstrandum says

    When I read Hitch’s “Letter to a Young Contrarian” I felt as if it were a letter written to me personally from a wise mentor and friend.

    Feel free to disagree with Hitch on Iraq, feminism and anything else. He would have welcomed the debate. I don’t believe in uncritically lionising the dead and I doubt he would have either.

    The fact remains he was a towering intellect, a wit non-pareil, a great orator and a man of deep erudition. He did more to impale religion on its own hypocrisy and evil, with flair, than any of us are likely to.

    I disagreed with him about Iraq, thought his VF piece on women not being funny was oddly not funny, smart or right. I’d still have given my left arm to have an evening of chatting with him, drinking scotch and finishing a couple packs of Marlboros.

    I raise a glass of 12 year old Ardbeg to Hitchens and thank him for his contributions to my knowledge and thinking.

  98. Brother Ogvorbis, OM . . . Really? says

    NPR’s obit never mentioned the word “atheist.”

    You mean to say that Fox News did a better job on his obituary than NPR did? Wow.

    Well, to be fair, Faux News used the word athiest. So he was the most athy person around?

  99. bastionofsass says

    The crazed, ugly reaction to the fact that a tag with the name of a book, #GodIsNotGreat, was trending on Twitter reaffirms so many of Hitchens’ arguments. A score for Hitch even after death. Good show!

    I miss him already.

  100. says

    NPR has been pretty disappointing in some respects, also regarding the OWS thing.

    But regarding NPR, and religions, only one name will suffice: Barbara Bradley Hagerty.

  101. coffeehound says

    Damn it.
    The acid wit,mastery of the written and spoken language,devastating rationality, it will all be missed.
    Even when I disagreed, I had to think about why in fully considered terms;there was no casual dismissal of the man’s argument.He helped me think about why, which is much more valuable than mindless agreement.

    Johnny Walker Black Label it is……

  102. Wishful Thinking Rules All says

    Heard about this last night, think I even commented on another of PZ’s threads here before this one was up. Great mind, I definitely did not agree with him on everything, but dammit if he wasn’t entertaining.

    Becca Stareyes says:

    I might give some people the benefit of the doubt for ‘rest in peace’ — unconsciousness and dreamless sleep is about the closest we, the living, can experience to non-existence, and non-existence also means that Hitch is free from the pain and suffering that his nasty bout of cancer was causing. Though rest does imply waking… must think about this more.

    I suppose I would give people a pass if they trotted out the stupid “rest in peace” line without thinking about, as a kind of a reflex. Because really, if you aren’t religious, the phrase makes no sense. You can’t rest when you don’t exist, right? I know people say things to soften the blow and make themselves feel less bad – “passed away” versus “he died”, but “passed away” is not misleading, like “rest in peace” is.

  103. says

    Fuck you,cancer. This is just horrible.

    I had this fantasy that I’d write a book and Hitch would review it and hate it. Being torn to pieces by someone I admired would teach me a profound life lesson. I would dedicate the next book to him, and at the release party, Hitch and I would laugh about the whole thing over a whiskey.

    Much love to his family. I’m going to go cry some more, and then I’m going to the liquor store.

  104. Agent Smith says

    You’re speaking of gardening of course

    Of course. I have no doubt that Hitch was one hell of a gardener.

  105. neilschipper says

    Sad. Bright light, burned out too early, and also too painfully.

    Note to science: How much more time and money before cancer is properly under control, huh? I do believe it’s a hard set of problems, but if you think it’s going to be a long way off, maybe put it on the shelf for a bit, and move forward on another front: the need for a genetic intervention and/or infant-raising recipe and/or medicine that will produce more such people with the peculiar combination of intelligence, courage and a sense of fairness that will offset the slide into a world run by highly intelligent and highly risk-tolerant criminals.

  106. Dick the Damned says

    Daisy @ 118, I’m older than Hitch, & I’m far from ready to go. I do like strong liquor, although I’ve only had wine & beer so far this evening.

    I’ll have a glass of rye later, to salute Hitch. But i will add water or maybe ginger. 40% proof is a health hazard, but that’s not widely advertised. It’s a tragedy when some people cut their lives short by drinking it neat. In Hitch’s case the smoking didn’t help either. But he probably caught the habit before it was widely known that it tends to cause cancer.

    Maybe he’d still have chosen to live his life in the fast lane had he known? Me? I was just trying to raise awareness. I think I found out just in time. (I hope.)

  107. What a Maroon says

    We could have had a pool to bet which fundy’d shoot his mouth off first, but Rick Warren seems to have had a ‘dumb mot’ ready to roll. Sleaze from Warren is no surprise. His comment “He knows the truth now” is laughable.

    Actually, he doesn’t know now. Seeing as he no longer exists. That’s the kicker for atheists; we never get to say “I told you so.”

    Anyway, I guess I’ll have to buy a bottle of Scotch on my way home. Not JWB; I’ll take whatever single malt grabs my fancy.

    I’m sure Hitch won’t mind.

  108. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Carlie, technically, they did. But then remember that the word “atheist” in a faux nooz story is meant to be like a red cape waved in front of a bull.

    Azuma, you couldn’t have thought of any horsewomen? Because I can think of several. I guess you ignored Dianne’s comment at #21.

    Dick, I think everybody here knows that excess can kill you. The question is whether the pleasure is worthwhile. Some people judge it to be such. To each their own.

  109. anchor says

    You know, what’s really cool is that, as his end neared, Hitch availed himself to exploit an opportunity, in what might otherwise, in considerably lesser hands, have devolved into a maudlin death-watch exercise.

    Thinking it over all night last, I came to imagine his reasoning might have gone something like this: “Here’s a proposal. Suppose, as I approach the black hole of death and drain inevitably away down into that bottomless maw of nothingness, before crossing irretrievably over the final event horizon demarcating the edge of life, I shall endeavour to keep up a running commentary of my sensations and thoughts of my experience to share with you, and keep up the reports as long as I possibly can.”

    He turned it into a kind of natural history observation, a kind of experiment. Not particularly sophisticated or quantifiable by any rigorous scientific standards, to be sure, but certainly observations conducted by an exceedingly keen eye trained through a first-class PRECISION literary lens

    Rather an observational experiment in ART.

    Very few are capable of pulling that off successfully, with such composure, dignity, elegance, grace, and fewer still with the caliber of his wit…but above all, with such coherence and penetration. Made it look almost effortless too.

    As he emphasized after he accepted the Richard Dawkins Award from Dawkins’ himself earlier in the year, said he: “I’m not finished yet.”

    Indeed he was not. The man had an awesome stamina. He performed brilliantly and courageously in the face of physical pain and weakness and the various associated – and arguably more sinister – psychological traumas. We might have wished for more of his reporting, more of his so beautifully-conveyed information, but the end may perhaps have loomed rather more abruptly than expected and posed more than his maximimum effort could overcome to keep clear of the precipice to oblivion.

    I am aware only of his last Vanity Fair article (the one that PZ mentioned just a few days back about his reassessment of the saying, “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”) as his latest to my knowledge. I am now wondering if it was his ultimate last shot at a blank page. Anybody know?

    BTW, the question of whether I personally agree or disagree with any of his views? Fucking irrelevant today. It’s relevance is mostly in comparison with other peoples views, not just with Hitch’s. Today and through the rest of the weekend I celebrate an opinionated but brilliantly complex man – now deceased – who was equipped with a mind which was capable of expressing views unequivocally and with hi-def precision. He was not one to succumb to fashionable expediencies, or to camouflage or cower behind obfuscation and ambiguity. One clearly understood WHAT he was saying, almost nearly, always, even if one did not quite always understand WHY he had arrived at a particular position. (Does it ever really matter? The rest often comes in due course. It just takes more time, which is why mortality sucks. If we’re reasonably diligent and fortunate, we manage to resolve ourselves fairly well over a nominal lifespan – for the benefit of our own understanding as well as that of others). But Hitch was a completely transparent and honest fighter. I will not dull that celebration with a comparison of my opinions. Bask in the radiating glow of his writing and oratory all weekend.

    I’m perfectly content to going back to despising his views on Iraq and abortion and bits of other things once I recover after the weekend. (Sheesh, it might take the rest of next week). There’s the rest of my life to read and reread and reappraise his body of work before following him down that dreadful drain. For now I just wish to raise a toast to him and to the bits which so beautifully resonated and harmonized as they overlapped with my own rough-hewn and raw or unarticulated notions, all the good stuff that brought increased acuity as well as the intense satisfaction of a consilience of mind.

    Hitch’s life has been a very fine one, saturated as it had been with so much experience and [mis]adventure, and graced with so many friends. Hmmm, hey, wouldn’t you know it – the bastard had a vicious sense of timing checking out perfectly timed for an entire and potentially very challenging weekend of it for a very impressive number of them. Positively theatrical of him. Wow. Now THAT’S class.

  110. ButchKitties says

    I’m not going to derail, but I really want to at that.

    I’d toast with Johnnie Walker, but hard liquor and I are not friends. I figured beer aged in oak bourbon barrels was a good compromise.

    Fortunately I have a friend with amazing beer connections.

    To Hitch!

  111. leonpeyre says

    I agree PZ, I have a bottle of Glenfiddich I’ll be getting into tonight, lifting glasses in his honor.

    Funny this should happen just when I’m in the middle of reading one of his books! Of course, it’s not so remarkable considering I’m doing it in the first place because I decided I really should read one of his books before he dies.

    Also, I don’t have a problem with “rest in peace”. It’s the ultimate long rest–all the effort you have to make day to day, all the little pains and aches, all the difficulties in life are gone, because you’re not there to experience them any more. For me it has no real religious overtones–it’s just a philosophical way of looking at the fact that life truly ends one day.

  112. Brother Ogvorbis, OM . . . Really? says

    I will be polishing off the last finger of some 30-year-old Pinch blended Scotch.

  113. DLC says

    I heard the news this morning before going to bed.
    (I keep odd hours some times.)
    I’ve no whiskey with which to toast him, but I would if I could.
    Hitchens was brilliant, and still just a man. A great orator, fine and smooth yet with bite, just like the whiskey he loved.
    Though he’s gone, part of him will live on in his works.
    Goodbye Hitch. we’ll miss you.

  114. Dhorvath, OM says

    There is no sorrow here, not because I think Hitchens has transcended, but because these two things are clear: Hitchens is dead, but once he Lived. Too few have that opportunity, to live life with vigour, to consume existence rather than drift past it. Hitchens fills me with hope, nay glee, that life is worth living, that I and those I know matter: Here. Now.

  115. says

    Rest in peace Hitch.

    I wake up and pour a large tonic & gin and drink in your honour.

    The atheist choir has lost one of it’s brightest singers.

  116. says

    Vale, Hitch. I toasted your end last night with a double nip of Isle of Jura “Superstition”.

    And of course he was a “mixed bag”. He was human. We’re atheists, we don’t have saints or expect people to be saints, and frankly I’m rather suspicious of anyone who seems too perfect. Warts and all, Hitch was an admirable man with great courage and eloquence. And I think (along with several others here) that Hitch would have relished a good argument and despised the idea of sweeping disagreements under the carpet.

  117. says

    Ken Ham has put you on his hit list/ prayer list on Facebook. It started with the crap that they were posting about Hitch and moved on to you and Dawkins. He have put both of you on the hit/prayer list and is encouraging all his followers (stupid sheep) to do the same

  118. No One says

    “Hitch is not in heaven”.

    He is not in hell either. His body has stopped functioning (including his brain). We shall follow. As will our offspring. I so love my existence! What a delight it is to be able to type this. I’ll have a wee toast (i’m allergic to alcohol), not just to Hitch but to all my fellow travelers. Cheers pharyngulites!

  119. No One says

    … and I forgot. Any visitors from Ken Ham’s stable of drools…

    Stick a dead porcupine up your ass!

  120. reynoldhall says

    Alverant at # 16 says:
    That is sad news. I also fear the remarks “compassionate” religious people will make.

    Yeah, for example, this guy, Dipshit Dan the debunker.

    I’ll maybe have a drink in Hitchen’s honor, then I’m going to go over there and tear that idiot a new one.

    Meanwhile, Katherine at #23 sums it up the best for me.

  121. says

    Scotch & Coke!*&$^%!

    Ur doin it rong!

    Johnnie Walker Black Label and Perrier was Hitches favorite restorative elixir. Being out of JW I had a small glass of Lagavulin, neat.

    Rum and Coke, maybe… but never whiskey and Coke.

  122. reynoldhall says

    Hmmm…looks like Dipshit Dan the debunker already is getting his ass handed to him on his own blog!

    Not that it matters. This is his reply, as he usually does when he’s caught doing something wrong.

  123. basil4basil says

    A poem for Hitch:

    Do not leave the shore, timid, cowed,
    Don’t fear the final fledgling flight,
    Nor plash the oar, fevered, bowed,
    Let near the null, the nurseling night.

    Do not slip the bow, keening loud,
    Nor rue the rotten remnant rite,
    Let pass the now, winging cloud,
    And near the null, the nurseling night.

    Yes, seize the dark, endless, proud,
    Let loose the limpid lifelorn light,
    Approach, embark, careless shroud.
    Let near the null, the nurseling night.

  124. charlesyoung says

    I was raised reconstructionist Jewish (very liberal philosophically, and NOT very theological), stopped believing when I was around eight. I suppose I just grew up. I may be biased, but I like the Jewish take on death and funeral. The entire process is purposed to console the grievers, but make sure they do indeed grieve. Mourn the loss of loved ones. Only after you mourn can you heal and move on.

  125. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    All of you commenting on his drinking or smoking:

    Shut your fucking mouths. I don’t care if you “feel bad” for him because he “caught the habit” before it was known to be bad, or if you just feel you must self-righteously point out that he “probably” (like you’re a fucking epidemiologist) did it to himself.

    It’s ugly. It’s unnecessary. It helps no one. And it makes you look very, very base and mean. You wouldn’t dream of making remarks like this if he died of a heart attack because he disobeyed his doctor’s advice to exercise or take his cholesterol pills (and if you would you’re even more obnoxious than I imagined).

    No one deserves to die that way. Full stop. Don’t say anything further.

  126. ChasCPeterson says

    weird–It was just last week I was sitting at the bar and two yups off the train came in and orcered Johnnie Walker & Cokes. I thought the bartender’s eyes were going to rotate out of their sockets but he set them up.

  127. carlie says

    What Josh said at 161. Anyone who tries to lay blame for a person’s death on them is just looking for a way to feel superior and distance themselves by thinking “well, that could never happen to ME because I’m not like that”. Death happens to everybody. It will happen to you too. Trying to be smug about how someone else died is ridiculous and vile.

  128. says

    Don’t forget, Hitch has left us but he has also inspired an entire generation of outspoken atheists. We are only beginning to organize but our numbers are Legion and our purpose set. We are the light that the darkness of superstition fears. Magical thinking will fall before the hammer of Reason and Logic.

    WE are now the Fourth Horseman. http://www.usanap.org

  129. bastionofsass says

    Ummm. Thinking of the long list of “Things that Bastionofsass Did Over Many Years that May Have Contributed to Bastionofsass’ Death” that my friends and family could make and publish after my death.

    I’ll be dead, so I won’t care about such a list because, like, I’ll be dead.

    But if I could care, I’d wonder why anyone else would care to make such a list and discuss it. What benefit would it be to them–or me?

  130. What a Maroon says

    He is not in hell either.

    I have absolutely no interest in going to any sort of heaven of any religion–the idea of spending eternity in an utterly boring environment surrounded by the unbearably pious hardly strikes me as paradise.

    On the other hand, I sometimes wish that hell were real; eternity could be a lot of fun if you get to hang out with the likes of Hitch and Molly Ivins and Mark Twain. I suspect Satan would be pretty cool about things.

    Alas, as a rationalist I can at least console myself with the fact that the above left us with extensive writings.

  131. speedweasel says

    In honour of the man I raised a glass of Lagavulin 16-year.

    I just returned from the shop with a bottle of the same, only to read this news. :(

    Hitch was the closest thing I had to a hero… and still is.

  132. leonpeyre says

    Scotch & Coke, apparently, tastes pretty nasty to my taste buds.

    That sounds pretty good, but what’s the Coke for? Please tell me you’re using it as a chaser.

    The fact that he was open and unashamed of hitting the bottle often showed a lot of class. Too often we try to hide such foibles (of which I’m as guilty as anyone).

    Ah, finishing off my aforementioned glass of Glenfiddich. Dang, I’m not used to this stuff–don’t drink it like I used to. I think it’s time to switch back to homebrewed beer after this. (Hey, what’s everybody looking at? It’s Friday night. Yeah I keep a keg of homebrew in the house, what of it?) ;)

  133. says

    And if fate remember later, and come to claim her due,
    What sorrow could be greater than the joy I shared with you?
    For today, lit by your laughter, between the crushing years,
    I will chance, in the hereafter, eternities of tears.

    ~Lawrence Hope

  134. yellowsubmarine says

    Although we could see the end coming, to actually read the dreaded news was still a crushing moment. His writings were and still are so inspiring to me, especially when I was sorting myself out after leaving christianity. Forget he will be sorely missed. He is sorely missed right the hell now.

    Markita @ 177, Greta Christina is amazing. Her “Why are athiests so angry?” speech gave me goosebumps. More than once.

  135. Azuma Hazuki says

    @177

    Nicely said :) I’m not as well-read of her as of some others, but I am an FB friend of hers and have been impressed by her demeanor and her scope of knowledge. And, honestly, just a teensy bit jealous of her and her wife ;-; They’ll need to ride tandem~

  136. Hurin, Nattering Nabob of Negativism says

    Goodnight sweet prince.

    This Lagavulin is for you. Also the Balvenie I chase it with.

  137. leaford says

    Josh, Carlie, and Setar:

    Acknowledging the fact that Hitchen’s drinking and smoking most likely contributed to his developing esophogal cancer is not “blaming the victim.” It is simply acknowledging a medical fact about the causes of that particular form of cancer, and one which has been very well established.

    Denying that fact does no one any good. And it would be counter to Hitch’s own respect for the truth, no matter how harsh and uncomfortable that truth might be.

    I am facing a similar situation myself. Not cancer, thankfully (although that was one of the possibilities early in the diagnosis process, which was a frightening possibility to face), but a whole plethora of gastroentrological diseases ranging from chronic gastritis to colonitis and colon polyps.

    And I have to face up to the fact that it was my own behavior and choices that led me to these consequences. A lifetime of bad diet choices, too much junk food, red meat and fat; two decades worth of heavy smoking and drinking, etc.

    In other words, it is in no way blaming the victim, it is merely acknowledging reality. Blame is irrelevant to issues that can be boiled down to clear, scientifically proven cause and effect. In Hitchen’s own words, “it would be very idle to deny it.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6XncYCZTc4

    02:04
    Hitchens:
    “I came by this particular tumor honestly. I mean, if you smoke, which I did for many years, very heavily, with occasional interruptions, and if you, um, if you use alcohol, you make yourself a candidate for it. In your sixties.”

    Cooper:
    “You said to me, you burned the candle at both ends. You think…”

    Hitchens:
    “And it gave a lovely light.”

    Cooper:
    “It gave a lovely light. (chuckles) But you think part of that, the way you lived, is responsible for this.”

    Hitchens:
    “Well, it would be very idle to deny it. And I might as well say to anyone who might be watching, if you can hold it down on the smokes and the cocktails you might be well advised to do so.”

  138. says

    I went to the store this evening and my favorite Lagavulin has gone up a full 30% in price since I last purchased it… but that was not my goal anyhow. I got a good deal on some Johnnie Walker Black Label and a six pack of Perrier. I am on my third JWBL and Perrier and I must say that I feel a lot smarter already!

    OK… perhaps that is a stretch but the mix is quite drinkable.

    Cheers to Hitch!

    Also: I really like the poems people have been writing.

  139. leaford says

    I neglected to express my sorrow for Mr. Hitchen’s loss.

    Others have expressed my feelings better than I could. He leaves the world a poorer place for having left it, but his lifetime of work enriched it beyond measure, and I think that’s how he should be best memorialized, by celebrating the legacy he left us all.

    I was mostly familiar with his work through Youtube, I am sorry to say. I’ve long thrilled to the passion and clarity of his fiery rhetoric, and the beautiful tones and unflappable demeanor with which he delivered it. But I never got around to reading his books, and have read very few of his columns.

    Since I cannot drink at this time, due to the consequences of my own excesses, I choose to honor his memory by rectifying that lack.

  140. leighshryock says

    Well, then. I tried it with coke, I tried it watered down with ice… couldn’t stand the taste of it.

    Tried it neat… not too shabby. Weird, eh? The more I tried to drown it, the worse it tasted.

  141. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    leaford:

    Acknowledging the fact that Hitchen’s drinking and smoking most likely contributed to his developing esophogal cancer is not “blaming the victim.” It is simply acknowledging a medical fact about the causes of that particular form of cancer, and one which has been very well established.

    No, it isn’t. We don’t do this with many other diseases that can be provoked by lifestyle. It’s a particular thing about smoking and drinking. It’s moralistic. If it weren’t, people would say the same thing in the same numbers about diabetics who fail to control their blood sugar.

    There is no purpose to “acknowledging” this other than to feel self-righteous. It’s not like anyone is in denial. Try again.

    Denying that fact does no one any good. And it would be counter to Hitch’s own respect for the truth, no matter how harsh and uncomfortable that truth might be.

    No one’s denying it. Why do you think that? Highlighting it can’t help but to be judgmental, however, and you’re doing it right now. Somehow I doubt Hitchens would be clapping you on the back. Who do you think you’re “doing good” for?

    And I have to face up to the fact that it was my own behavior and choices that led me to these consequences. A lifetime of bad diet choices, too much junk food, red meat and fat; two decades worth of heavy smoking and drinking, etc.

    Yeah. And two decades of the same behavior gave me a heart attack at age 36. But, oh, yeah, also, most fat smoking 36 year olds still don’t get heart attacks. Hmm. I wonder if I had a genetic predisposition to be particularly sensitive to those behaviors. (That was rhetorical).

    Guess what? I still didn’t “deserve” it anymore than you do. And I won’t join your self-indulgent public mortification–which is exactly what this is. You’re having a conversation with yourself to get right with your own conscience because you somehow think you’re ethically obliged to blame yourself and own up to your moral (yes, you do conceive of them that way) failings. Fuck you. Go talk to yourself. It’s not all about you, and the rest of us don’t have to get on your bandwagon of confession-for-absolution in order to understand what happens to our bodies.

    In other words, it is in no way blaming the victim, it is merely acknowledging reality. Blame is irrelevant to issues that can be boiled down to clear, scientifically proven cause and effect. In Hitchen’s own words, “it would be very idle to deny it.”

    More bullshit. The fact that people bring it up, and say things like, “well, he brought it on himself,” indicates they’re making a value judgment. Which is worthless. So, then what? Will it bring him back? No. It will certainly satisfy one’s daily Smug Quotient, though. Again — and read this carefully — no one is denying it. You invented that in your head. I’m criticizing the ugly need to bring it up and act self-righteous. Do you fucking get that?

    I neglected to express my sorrow for Mr. Hitchen’s loss.

    Yeah, you did. Because it was more important to you to defend obnoxious, rude, uncharitable and selfish “acknowledgments” of Hitchens’ secular sins. You needed to do that more than you cared about acknowledging his death. QED.

    And fuck you.

  142. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Since I cannot drink at this time, due to the consequences of my own excesses, I choose to honor his memory by rectifying that lack.

    Jeezis but you’re a disgusting self-righteous prig. Go play in a highway.

  143. Azuma Hazuki says

    In fairness, he chose this. Personally I think it’s a dumb choice. Was it wrong? I’m not sure. Was it self-defeating? Yes.

    Did it likely rob us of 10-20 more years of his wisdom? Absolutely, and there and only there is there possible grounds for moral objection. But he chose, and he knew.

  144. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    In fairness, he chose this. Personally I think it’s a dumb choice. Was it wrong? I’m not sure. Was it self-defeating? Yes.

    Did it likely rob us of 10-20 more years of his wisdom? Absolutely, and there and only there is there possible grounds for moral objection. But he chose, and he knew.

    You fucker.

  145. leaford says

    Josh, I think you’re letting your emotions get the better of your reason. I made no moral judgement. And I said nothing more than what Hitchens himself said, and provided both the video and the transcript to prove it.

    Would you say he was being smug, moralizing, or self rightous for saying, “if you smoke, which I did for many years, very heavily, with occasional interruptions, and if you, um, if you use alcohol, you make yourself a candidate for it”? Or accuse him of self-indulgent public mortification? Or tell him “fuck you,” or “go play in a highway,” for suggesting, “if you can hold it down on the smokes and the cocktails you might be well advised to do so”? I never even made that mild a suggestion about other people’s choices, let alone cast judgement on ANYONE.

    And I’m being a “disgusting self-rightous prig” because I CAN’T drink in his memory right now, so choose to read his work instead? I never suggested others shouldn’t raise their glasses, or that I wouldn’t like to do so myself. Not that it’s any of your damn business, but I would if I could.

    You have a right to your anger, but I don’t deserve to be its target. If anyone is being self-rightous, judgemental and moralzing about this, it’s you.

  146. leaford says

    And one more thing, Josh. You wrote, “Because it was more important to you to defend obnoxious, rude, uncharitable and selfish “acknowledgments” of Hitchens’ secular sins. You needed to do that more than you cared about acknowledging his death.”

    I saw his interview several hours before I read this thread, and it had been on my mind since. The dignity and self honesty with which he faced up to and admitted his own contributions to his fate struck a cord with me, and was still on my mind.

    As I’ve admitted, although I knew of him, and respected and admired most of what I knew, I never had the deep, personal emotional investment in him that you seem to have. He was never a personal hero to me in the way that Dawkins or Sagan have been. And so, yes, the similarities between his situation and mine is what I connected with, and emotionally identified with.

    Wouldn’t you say that pretending otherwise, and engaging in a display of public browbeating is what would have been truly acting self-rightous and self-indulgent?

    Not to mention the hypocrisy of your castigating me like this, “There is no purpose to “acknowledging” this other than to feel self-righteous. It’s not like anyone is in denial,” then faulting me for being late in “acknowledging” his death.

    In your own words, “There is no purpose to “acknowledging” this other than to feel self-righteous. It’s not like anyone is in denial.”

  147. Azuma Hazuki says

    Josh, these little hissy fits are rather unbecoming. He said himself he knew what he was doing to himself. It was his choice. And we all acknowledged that, and I said that if anyone were to try to pass judgment it could only be because he effectively robbed us of more of himself.

    I sense some projection here. Are you dealing with something similar? Are the effects of a bad lifestyle choice (smoking or drinking, NOT being gay, I am lesbian and did NOT choose it and I doubt you did either) shortening your lifespan as well? Because I really can’t imagine what else is getting you so upset.

  148. saguhh00 says

    How to stop any person from telling you that someone is in or will be sent to Hell:

    a) If they are a Christian, tell them that THEY will go to Hell for refusing to accept the Word of God as spoken by His prophet Muhammad.

    b) If they are a Muslim, tell them that THEY will go to Hell for refusing to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

  149. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Tautology of the day: Hitch was who he was.

    I would not claim the wisdom to change a thing, as I do not know whether the effects of even the slightest change might have rendered him less grand, less pugnacious or more bland. His life is complete. It stands for itself, and I think it would be a poor mind (Ken Ham’s for instance) that could not appreciate that it was a good life. He lived well and he died well.

    Hitch smoked and died of complications due to throat cancer. I have never smoked but could still die of throat cancer—or if not of throat cancer then surely of something else. I only hope that however I die, I do so with as much courage and humor as Hitch.

    We’ll all miss Hitch, but it is incumbent upon those of us that remain to keep his memory—the only spirit that actually exists—alive, and to be sufficiently memorable and decent that those who come after us keep our memory, with it’s tiny spark of Hitch, alive as well. This is what it means to be human.

  150. leaford says

    Azuma, thank you for your post. I was already thinking Josh must have been letting his grief and anger at Hitchens’ passing speak for him, and tried to keep from losing my own temper in return. You’ve given me even more reason to do so. It also occurs to me that it was the middle of the night on Josh’s side of the world, and he may well have had a few toasts to Hitch’s memory when he posted.

    Josh, I’m sorry I offended you. I didn’t intend to start an argument; this is neither the time nor place for that. I will leave it at that if you will.

  151. leonpeyre says

    All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot.
    But the Hitch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not.
    The Hitch hated Christmas, that part of the season.
    And if you asked why, he just might have a reason.
    It could be the harm that faith does every year;
    It could be that it teaches such hatred and fear.
    But whatever the reason, the harm or the teaching,
    He wished that its leaders would stop overreaching.
    Staring down from his home with his scotch in a glass,
    He thought about how best to kick Christian ass.

    Or something like that. Cheers, Hitch!

  152. Cannabinaceae says

    Last night being Family Pizza Night (with special guests), I thought it would be appropriate to kill a bottle of whisky in honor of Hitchens. This was not hard to do as my “good stuff” bottle (didn’t seem appropriate to drink anything lesser) – 18 year Macallan – was almost empty.

    So, as the three of us with whisky (just shy of 2oz each) and the rest with their drinks raised our glasses, I was asked what I wanted the toast to be, it being my idea and all. Well, I hadn’t actually thought about it, but in my panic, I may have subconsciously remembered the title to this post, and said “He is not in heaven!”, which received general acclaim

    To which W.U. added, “…and if he were, it would serve him right”, which received even greater acclaim, if bittersweet laughter can be called acclaim.

    Now I can open my next “good stuff” bottle (I only keep one open at a time), the other bottle I was given last May when I Defended. IIRC, a Glenfiddich Solera Reserve (it’s in the back of the Liquor Region of the cabinetry so I haven’t read its name in a while).

    Seems only appropriate to continue the tribute by self-enabling with whisky and denouncing religion. Perhaps tonight.

  153. piranhaintheguppytank says

    I actually find myself already bracing myself for the next sign of deep disrespect that is destined to appear soon: the hackneyed political cartoon that draws him standing at the pearly gates.

    I would like to see a cartoon where Hitchens is standing at the Pearly Gates and he’s just given St. Peter a black-eye. St. Peter asks, “What was that for?” And Christopher Hitchens replies, “The cancer, you fuckwit!”

  154. piranhaintheguppytank says

    Speaking of lame editorial cartoons, I think the Friendly Atheist got it right:

    http://mcaf.ee/4hwn3

    Somewhat on a tangent, what I’d really like to see is a cartoon where someone arrives at the Pearly Gates and St. Peter is drawn to resemble Cthulhu. The caption gives St. Cthulhu’s response to the stunned arrivee, “Surprisingly enough, H.P. Lovecraft was the closest to being right.”

  155. firefly says

    I woke up to this very sad news on Friday morning. His writings taught me how to refine my own arguments, even when I disagreed with him (perhaps especially then), and will have a lasting effect on my life.

    Thank you, Hitch. *raises a glass of Johnnie Walker Black & Perrier*

  156. ianwardell says

    Unless we assume reductive materialism, then consciousness/self is not something which is detectable by any means whatsoever. Hence any definitive assertions that Hitchens has ceased to exist doesn’t seem to me to be in any way justifiable.

    And this is not to mention the quite substantial body of evidence suggesting survival!

  157. Azuma Hazuki says

    @202

    Be careful what “evidence” you put out here :) I may not be any Susan Blackmore but I’m enough of a thanatologist (yes that is a thing) to know NDEs and grief hallucinations a) are natural and b) aren’t evidence of survival after death.

    In fairness, you are technically correct that we can’t know for certain there is nothing left that would answer to “Hitch” in any way shape or form…because as limited beings, we can never really be 100% certain of anything not neatly contained within a system of formal logic (and remember what Godel said about that…).

    I believe the majority sentiment here is “We don’t know for sure but it’s pretty damn unlikely,” with a heaping helping of “and FUCK the Yahweh cultists sideways up the ass with a rusty Garden Weasel, the supercilious grave-robbing psychopaths!”

  158. ianwardell says

    @203

    It’s extraordinarily difficult to quantify the probability of the respective survival and extinction hypotheses.

    Nevertheless to describe the survival hypothesis as extremely unlikely suggests to me that you haven’t really grappled with all the issues involved.

    NDEs, deathbed visions, crisis hallucinations etc, do not provide any scientific evidence. But clearly the survival hypothesis accommodates them somewhat more readily than the extinction hypothesis, where essentially they are merely explained away.

  159. Sastra says

    ianwardell #304 wrote:

    Nevertheless to describe the survival hypothesis as extremely unlikely suggests to me that you haven’t really grappled with all the issues involved.

    I think it’s the other way around. Mind/body substance dualism isn’t supported by neuroscience or cognitive studies.

    NDEs, deathbed visions, crisis hallucinations etc, do not provide any scientific evidence. But clearly the survival hypothesis accommodates them somewhat more readily than the extinction hypothesis, where essentially they are merely explained away.

    Ray Hyman has a famous dictum: “Before you try to explain something, make sure there is something to explain.”

    If there is no good scientific evidence for NDEs, etc., then we don’t have to worry about how to explain them.

  160. ianwardell says

    Sastra in post 205 says:

    I think it’s the other way around. Mind/body substance dualism isn’t supported by neuroscience or cognitive studies.”

    Neuroscience or cognitive doesn’t support the existence of consciousness either.

    If there is no good scientific evidence for NDEs, etc., then we don’t have to worry about how to explain them.

    You’re denying they occur?

  161. KG says

    ianwardell

    Unless we assume reductive materialism, then consciousness/self is not something which is detectable by any means whatsoever.

    Ridiculous nonsense. We detect consciousness (and its absence) as a matter of course in everyday life. We also detect selves, as we interact with them constantly.

    Hence any definitive assertions that Hitchens has ceased to exist doesn’t seem to me to be in any way justifiable.

    Of course it’s justifiable. All the evidence that a certain lump of matter with spatio-temporal continuity is aware of its surroundings, and of many of its own states, has apparently ceased. Since “Christopher Hitchens” was used to refer to the ways in which that lump of matter interacted with the rest of the world when it was aware of it, as well as the lump of matter itself, it’s a simple matter of fact that what was referred to as “Christopher Hitchens” has ceased to exist.

    And this is not to mention the quite substantial body of evidence suggesting survival!

    Just as well you didn’t mention it, as no such substantial body of evidence exists.

  162. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You’re denying they occur?

    Nothing but brain chemisty, hypoxia, and false memories, all scientifically explained. No dualism needed.

    Consciousness is a manifestation of brain activity. Only delusional fools think otherwise…

  163. ianwardell says

    KG

    We detect consciousness (and its absence) as a matter of course in everyday life. We also detect selves, as we interact with them constantly.

    People on here seem inordinately fond of making unsubstantiated assertions.

    We can observe someones behaviour. But to observe their behaviour is not to observe consciousness itself (unless we’re metaphysical behaviourists). Moreover, if the physical world is closed, then we cannot even infer their consciousness since their behaviour is wholly a consequence of physical chains of causes and effects.

    We cannot detect selves either. Indeed those who subscribe to a materialist based metaphysic cannot believe in the enduring self of commonsense. Any time our psychological states changes, the original self ceases to be. Under materialism the self is an illusion.

    All the evidence that a certain lump of matter with spatio-temporal continuity is aware of its surroundings, and of many of its own states, has apparently ceased.

    Remember that those who subscribe to survival will almost certainly reject any materialist based metaphysic. In which case a “lump of matter” is never aware of anything.

  164. Ragutis says

    OK, so we all know Hitch’s preferred drink, but out of curiosity does anyone happen to know what he smoked?

  165. kemist says

    NDEs, deathbed visions, crisis hallucinations etc, do not provide any scientific evidence. But clearly the survival hypothesis accommodates them somewhat more readily than the extinction hypothesis, where essentially they are merely explained away.

    The malfunctioning brain explains them much more readily.

    Some people also have had visions while consuming psychotropic drugs. You can be rendered in a state of extreme anxiety for no other reason than manipulation of your brain chemistry by consuming some types of drugs.

    Does a chemically induced state of anxiety means that there
    really is somebody after you ? Is the 25 feet high cockroach you saw while on an acid trip hiding in an hidden dimension ?

    No ?

    Why then should we spare any attention on the random malfunctions of an hypoxic brain ?

  166. ianwardell says

    Well we can always question our perceptions. With respect to NDEs I suppose we can best judge this issue by asking those who have actually undergone an NDE. They almost always report that what they experienced as real and they feel more conscious than they have ever felt. This can be contrasted with something like ketamine induced NDEs where only 30% report them as being real. However I’m inclined to the view that people who take psychotropic drugs do get a distorted access to other realities and dimensions. Distorted because, in contrast to deep NDEs, the self is still operating through its brain (I subscribe to the notion that the brain acts in an analogical way to a filter, much along the lines that Aldous Huxley suggested).

    On this subject of whether we survive I have written an essay should anyone be interested:

    http://existenceandreality.blogspot.com/

  167. orsonzedd says

    As someone who has seen relatives and pets decay while living, Death isn’t our enemy, but our friend. Entropy is our enemy.

  168. Rawnaeris says

    Fuck. fuck fuckfuckfuck

    This is what I get for not getting online for two days, I’ve only just found out.

    Here’s to Hitch, a masterful orator, a cunning linguist, and inspiration to all.

  169. Azuma Hazuki says

    Long day at work. Let me attempt to drill down here.

    Ian, I do not outright deny the idea of survival after death. I have spent years studying it, alongside and in parallel to my religious studies. The conclusion I came to is that, while of course we cannot categorically deny it (remember, Godelian logical limits of a finite mind…), nothing we have so far is good evidence either way.

    The universal aspects of the NDE (tunnel vision, OBE, and so forth) are all explainable as malfunctions of a dying brain. The experiences that differ are all entirely culturally-ingrained: lifelong Christians do not see Lord Yama, Jews do not see calm and fierce deities of Tantrayana Buddhism, and so forth…unless exposed to the ideas beforehand as I recall in one case of a Christian missionary to Thailand being chased by a pack of Yamatuts.

    Recall that EKGs do not record except at the surface of the brain. I saw an article on Ars Technica a few weeks ago detailing the discovery of a huge, final pulse in supposedly braindead mice, one that seems to result from the final depolarization of the ion channels in the neurons. An ordinary EKG might not catch this, and I suspect the brain also survives longer and operates on lower voltages than we are capable of measuring at this point.

    Then, too, the brain probably dies from the outside in…meaning, from most to least sophisticated. It would make sense that at some point in this process one has the intelligence of a small child or animal and mostly fear and danger signals left. You do know that NDEs can be induced by simple fear of death, do you not? And that OBEs can be induced on demand now?

    Also, what DO you think happens after death? If we survive, where do we go and why? What system if any is in place? Who set it up?

  170. ianwardell says

    The universal aspects of the NDE (tunnel vision, OBE, and so forth) are all explainable as malfunctions of a dying brain.

    Hypotheses can always be dreamt up to protect existing beliefs. In science the sign of a good hypothesis is one which makes predictions which subsequently come to fruition.

    The experiences that differ are all entirely culturally-ingrained: lifelong Christians do not see Lord Yama, Jews do not see calm and fierce deities of Tantrayana Buddhism, and so forth…unless exposed to the ideas beforehand as I recall in one case of a Christian missionary to Thailand being chased by a pack of Yamatuts.

    One thing you should bear in mind is that even our empirical reality is largely a creation of the mind. Not wholly a creation of the mind though. What we see normally has an external origin, but the mind shapes and moulds what we see to fit into our implicit prior expectations about what reality is like.

    In other words there’s more to seeing than what hits the eyeball. Thus people from different cultures will see different things even when looking at the same object. Think of the necker cube. Would members of African tribes likewise see a cube, or would they simply just see a two dimensional array of lines?

    Thus when we perceive the afterlife realm what we see is clearly is going to be hugely influenced by what we have perceived during this life, and also our cultural expectations. Of course we will expect the perceptions of such a realm from people from different cultures to share a certain commonality. Thus people from differing cultures and differing beliefs may all see a beneficent being during their NDEs. But this being might be seen as Jesus, or Yama, or whatever. So is this being Jesus or Yama? Well I would suggest it’s neither in some absolute objective sense. Does this mean there is no external origin for their perception? Absolutely not. Of course it’s possible that the perception of this being is wholly a creation of the mind, but what good reason do we have to suppose this?

    You do know that NDEs can be induced by simple fear of death, do you not? And that OBEs can be induced on demand now?

    Yes, the so-called fear-death experience. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to glimpse the afterlife realm when not near death provided there is some slight alteration in the normal functioning of the brain which allows us to glimpse this other reality.

    As regards OBEs, no they cannot be induced on demand. The case reported which appears to contradict this bears very little resemblance to standard OBEs. Indeed I’ve read that even voluntary OBEs are somewhat insipid compared to involuntary OBEs

  171. Azuma Hazuki says

    Just a word of warning, Ian: I happen to like this stuff but most people here will be annoyed at you for it. This may get cut short. I find it fascinating, personally.

    On topic, I think you’re giving this stuff too much credence. Your points all make sense but in the way presuppositionalist apologetics do: only if you assume certain things not in evidence. “If it looks like a duck…” is all well and good but how do we know we’re looking at a duck?

    And you never did tell me just what the heck you think all this is, too. Personally I think that if this is real, “the truth” about the afterlife &c is going to be something like a cross between primitive Buddhism and the less fraudulent parts of 19th-century Spiritism. Do hells, heavens, reincarnation, &c figure into your worldview? If so, how?

  172. ianwardell says

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “assume certain things not in evidence”. Do you mean I’m ignoring the problems with survival? Obviously since everyone commenting on this blog is so sure that we cease to exist I haven’t bothered mentioning the problems!

    But in the interests of being evenhanded I’ll mention the problems as I see them.

    On the issue of NDEs for example there’s the existence of hell-like NDEs which seem to conflict with the message from the heaven-like NDEs.

    Also only a small minority of people claim to recollect an NDE. To believe in survival we therefore have to suppose that everyone else forgets.

    Also during deep sleep the self seems not to be conscious. Does it therefore not exist during this period? But really one might suppose that if the self survives death then it should also continually exist during life. 3 possibilities here:

    a) It could be the case that we’re always conscious, but simply forget.

    b) The self does not need to be continually conscious in order to continually exist.

    c) The self has an intermittent existence.

    Other evidence such as split brain people, or people seeing Jesus or Yama etc depending on their cultural background during NDEs, I do not regard as constituting compelling evidence against survival.

    What do I think about Hell? Well I don’t see the purpose of it . . .

    Yes I regard reincarnation as being likely to occur. We have young children reporting memories of previous lives. I regard the evidence here to be possibly more compelling than NDEs/ deathbed visions.

  173. Azuma Hazuki says

    What I want to know, and will ask for a third time here, is: what do YOU believe it all means?

    Your answer has implications for everything from the Problem of Evil to the nature of God or gods if any exist to the ontological grounding and nature (consequential vs deontological) of morality.

    I know about Ian Stevenson. I have heard about the case of a girl from India who met her old family. I also know about people who see Mario or Sonic or Rockman in their NDEs or have utterly nonsensical ones. I have heard that you can “regress” someone forward in time as well and get complete bollocks about their present life (and of course reports of future lives, which make no sense when they do appear).

    You may be onto something. Please explain what you think it’s all pointing to.

  174. says

    When I found this out, I had my brother and sister staying at my place. They like getting drunk, and as a good host, I was taking them into town to indulge their hobby when I got an SMS about Hitch’s death from a friend. I was very sad because a smart man had passed, and the world needs as many smart people as it can get.

    My brother, on the other hand, has no respect for smart people. In fact, quite the opposite. The one time I tried to talk about my feelings during his visit, I was heaped with scorn and ridicule. I kept my mouth shut for the rest of his visit.

    He’s finally just left, but I feel that’s it’s too late now. Where I should have been dealing with my feelings in the days after his death, I just suppressed them. I’m not sure what to do now. Is it like an old cut, where you need to scrape the scab off and pour disinfectant on it?

    Oh well. Hopefully he’ll be nowhere near me when the next person I admire dies.